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Archive for the ‘Epidemics’ Category

What’s in the Water?

Tuesday, July 5th, 2016

Identifying the Danger of Algae and other Contaminants

Kid sick in the hospitalAccording to UNICEF, in 2015, nine percent of every child deaths, worldwide, resulted from illnesses caused by toxic water. Poor water quality contributes directly to life-threatening ailments as common, but potentially, deadly as diarrhea to as rare and dangerous as malaria and schistosomiasis. Thankfully, in most parts of the U.S., the water supply is exceedingly clean — espe

cially when compared to what’s available in developing countries. Nevertheless, United States’ officials are becoming increasingly concerned about the presence of toxic algae in dozens of areas in the Midwest. In Flint Michigan, for example, poor water supply (and mismanagement of the same) has caused serious health problems for residents, as well as massive political fallout.

researcher testing the water qualityAlgae in a Nutshell

  • Present in all bodies of water, algae plays an important role as a building block in the food chain.
  • Functions as a carbon sink, which pulls excess CO2 from the air, reducing the risk of climate change.
  • Blooms are outsized algae growths which often occur due to increased temperatures, as well as fertilizer and wastewater runoff.  The most dangerous kind of algae is cyanobacteria, otherwise known as blue-green algae. This type is toxic to animals and humans.

How Algae Affects Humans

Algal Blooms

Algal Blooms

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), has recently noted an alarming rise in incidences of algal blooms in drinking water reservoirs. They identify golden alga (Prymnesium parvum) as a frequent culprit relative to algal blooms, which include those which have affected Lake Erie in the recent past. Steps taken to mitigate the problem include better monitoring, and, in the case of Lake Erie, an ongoing effort to minimize farm runoff — which has contributed directly to the algal bloom.

Sometimes, large geographical regions can be affected. For example, in 2014, the entire city of Toledo, Ohio, had to stop drinking tap water due to the presence of Cyanobacteria. More than 500,000 residents were impacted, including thousands of business owners who had to think quickly in order to provide alternative drinking sources for staff and visitors. Since Cyanobacteria are not killed by boiling, the only viable solution is to use bottChemical element Arsenic Flatled water during an algae-related water supply crisis.

To combat algal blooms, the water source must be treated. This includes restricting usage of fertilizers and other agricultural runoff sources, adding phosphorous, suction dredging, and wetlands conservation.

Other Common Water Contaminants
Beyond algal blooms, there are myriad other water contaminants that must be properly monitored and treated.

Consider the following:

  • Lead seepage was the main problem relative to the drinking water crisis in Flint. This is typically caused by corroded lead pipes which leech contaminants into the water supply, over time. Lead is exceedingly toxic, especially for children, and causes damage to the nervous and reproductive systems, and compromises brain development.
  • Arsenic is another common contaminant typically found in private wells, as it is found in the earth’s crust. Detrimental health effects include cancers of the bladder, kidney, and skin, as well as blood vessel diseases.
  • The EPA lists dozens of other potential contaminants including cleaning supplies, medications, and various other organic and inorganic substances.

Ensuring the safety and availability of drinking water during a crisis requires diligent monitoring of water quality alerts and preparation of emergency supply kits containing sufficient stores of potable water. So remember to take proper disaster preparation steps and remember that safety is a daily priority. A convenient and affordable way to make sure you are prepared for disasters and emergencies of virtually every kind is to subscribe to the Allied Universal Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services, which has been designed to help improve and save lives. For more information about the best system out there, or to subscribe, click here.

What You Need to Know about MRSA

Tuesday, March 15th, 2016

Paper with words  MRSA  Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus AureusCommonly known as MRSA, Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus is a staph bacterium often (but not always) contracted in medical facilities, deeming it a super bug because it is resistant to many antibiotics. According to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIH), in recent years, MRSA has evolved from a controllable nuisance into a serious health concern. Most MRSA infections are confined to the skin or in the nose. However, the infection can also burrow deep into the body, causing life-threatening infections in the bones, joints, bloodstream, heart valves, lungs, and at surgical incision sites. It can even lead to pneumonia.

According to the MRSA Survivors’ Network, more Americans die each year from invasive MRSA infections than from HIV/AIDS or H1N1 flu. MRSA was first discovered in 1961, and is resistant to methicillin, amoxicillin, penicillin, oxacillin, and many other common antibiotics. The bug constantly adapts and changes, which leaves researchers hard pressed to keep up. Although approximately two percent of the population has MRSA on their skin, not everyone suffers ill effects from its presence. Troubling infections are most common among people who have weak immune systems.MRSA Caution Sign

Workers who are in frequent contact with MRSA and staph-infected people and animals are most at risk of contracting a MRSA-related staph infection. These include employees who work in healthcare, corrections, daycare, or veterinary medicine-related fields. However, alarmingly, MRSA has started appearing in healthy people who have not been hospitalized. This type of MRSA is called community-associated MRSA, or CA-MRSA.

The good news is that Congress recognizes the threat to public health, approving $160 million in new funding to the CDC in fiscal year 2016 to combat antibiotic-resistant bugs. With the funding, the CDC will:

  • accelerate outbreak detection and prevention in every state;
  • enhance tracking of resistance mechanisms and resistant infections;
  • support innovative research to address current gaps in knowledge; and
  • improve antibiotic use.
Photo courtesy of the CDC

Photo courtesy of the CDC

Most staph skin infections, including MRSA, appear as a bump or infected area on the skin that might be:

  • Red
  • Swollen
  • Painful
  • Warm to the touch
  • Full of pus or other drainage
  • Accompanied by a fever

The CDC suggests taking these personal hygiene steps to reduce your risk of contracting a MRSA infectionhygiene

  1. Maintain good hand and body hygiene. Hand washing remains one of the easiest, most effective ways to prevent the spread of any and all germs.
  2. Keep cuts, scrapes, and wounds clean and covered until healed.
  3. Avoid sharing personal items such as towels and razors.
  4. Seek medical attention early if you suspect you might have an infection.

Remember that health safety is a daily priority. So be sure to think about ways to #BeSafe all of the time. A convenient and affordable way to make sure you are prepared for disasters and emergencies of virtually every kind is to subscribe to the Allied Universal Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services, which has been designed to help improve and save lives. For more information about the best system out there, or to subscribe, click here.

Measles Outbreak 2015

Tuesday, January 20th, 2015

Measles 2

A measles outbreak, which reportedly began at Disneyland, in Anaheim, California between December 16 and 20, 2014, has spread to individuals in several other states and Mexico, according to health officials. The largest patient-cluster is currently located in California, with 45 confirmed cases, and at least six other infections identified in other parts of the United States and Mexico. Health officials have contacted people who may have come in contact with the virus, asking them to voluntarily stay in quarantine in their respective homes until the threat of potential infection has passed. All of the confirmed cases, to date, were contracted by individuals who were never vaccinated for the virus.

People who have the serious yet preventable ailment will experience symptoms including fever, dry cough, runny nose, watery eyes and a pervasive red rash. Spread through the air, usually via coughing, sneezing and/or other close contact, the measles could potentially rise to epidemic proportions because the illness is contagious for up to four days before the rash ever appears. So carriers can spread the virus without even being aware that they are infected. This is significant, as health officials note the outbreaks have begun to affect people beyond the original outbreak area.

CBS News reports, “Health officials report an increase in cases among people who did not visit the park, indicating that the illness is now spreading to others exposed in their communities.” This is a serious concern, as it implies the illness will be far more difficult to contain than originally thought.

Measles 3To date, here are confirmed cases, according to the CDC:  

  • California: 45 confirmed cases
  • Mexico: one case
  • Utah: two cases
  • Washington state: two cases
  • Colorado: one case

At least partially to blame for the spread of the virus is the declination in parents agreeing to have their children vaccinated. Kindergarten measles vaccination rates have been falling almost every year since 2002 in California. A Los Angeles Times analysis published last fall reported that the rise in vaccine exemptions among kindergartners because of parents’ personal beliefs was most prominent in wealthy coastal and mountain communities, such as South Orange County and the Santa Monica and Malibu areas.

Last year, in a report written for the Journal of the American Medical Association-Pediatrics, Dr. Mark Grabowsky, a health official with the United Nations, wrote: “The greatest threat to the U.S. vaccination program may now come from parents’ hesitancy to vaccinate their children. Although this so-called vaccine hesitancy has not become as widespread in the United States as it appears to have become in Europe, it is increasing. Many measles outbreaks can be traced to people refusing to be vaccinated; a recent large measles outbreak was attributable to a church advocating the refusal of measles vaccination.”

Measles 1While some hesitancy may be understandable, given alarming information available relative to potential, albeit very rare side effects of preserved booster shots, the risks must carefully be weighed against the benefits. Measles can lead to blindness and encephalitis, an infection of the brain. Also called rubeola, measles can be serious and even fatal for small children. While death rates have been falling worldwide as more children receive the measles vaccine, the disease still kills more than 100,000 people a year, most under the age of five. With their parents’ permission, children are typically immunized with a first dose of vaccine at 12 to 16 months and a second at 4- to 6-years-old.

We hope that this blog post will help you take steps to stay healthy. One convenient and affordable way to do so is to subscribe to the Allied Universal Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services, which has been designed to help improve and save lives. Visit rjwestmore.com to read about the many ways proper planning can make a difference in numerous aspects of your professional and personal life.

As Flu Concerns Ebb, Reemerging Disease Alarms Health Officials

Friday, February 28th, 2014

On the heels of a record-setting flu season (278 deaths confirmed to date), health officials warn that another infectious virus has reemerged. Officials report that, already so far this year, 15 Californians have come down with a disease that was thought to have been eradicated by vaccine— Measles.

Measles, also known as Rubeola, is a highly contagious respiratory infection that is a virus which causes a total-body skin rash and flu-like symptoms, such as a fever, cough, and runny nose. Though rare in the United States, 20 million cases occur worldwide every year.

Signs and Symptoms

While Measles is probably best known for the associated full-body rash, the first symptoms are typically a hacking cough, runny nose, high fever and red eyes. Characteristic markers of Measles are small red spots with bluish white centers that appear inside the mouth. The rash itself typically has a red or reddish brown blotchy appearance, and first usually shows up on the forehead, then spreads downward over the face, neck, and body, then down to the arms and feet.

  • Image courtesy of the CDC

    Measles is a leading cause of death among young children even though a safe and cost-effective vaccine is available.

  • In 2012, there were 122 000 measles deaths globally – about 330 deaths every day or 14 deaths every hour.
  • Measles vaccination resulted in a 78% drop in measles deaths between 2000 and 2012 worldwide.
  • In 2012, about 84% of the world’s children received one dose of measles vaccine by their first birthday through routine health services – up from 72% in 2000.
  • Since 2000, more than 1 billion children in high risk countries were vaccinated against the disease through mass vaccination campaigns ― about 145 million of them in 2012.

Unfortunately, Measles is highly contagious. In fact, 90% of people who have not been vaccinated will contract it if they live with an infected person. Measles is spread when someone comes in direct contact with infected droplets such as when someone sneezes or coughs. A person with Measles is contagious from 1 to 2 days before symptoms start until about 4 days after the rash appears.

The Los Angeles Times reports that epidemiologists say we’re off to “a bad year.” To wit, this same time last year, there had been only two Measles cases.

The California Department of Public Health reported illnesses in six counties:

  • Five in Los Angeles County
  • Three each in Orange and Riverside counties
  • Four combined in the Bay Area’s Alameda, Contra Costa and San Mateo counties.

Although none of the reported cases have been fatal, Measles can be deadly. Authorities remain concerned that more people than reported may have been exposed. In fact, fears have emerged that thousands of people might have been exposed when a Measles-infected UC Berkeley student traveled on the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Measles was eliminated in the U.S. in 2000 — meaning that it no longer circulated. Nevertheless, people here can still contract the virus while traveling to locations where Measles is common, since it is airborne.

Photo courtesy of the Measles & Rubella Initiative

The two-part Measles immunization, which is given to kids at six months and four years old, is said to provide protection 99% of the time. According to Dr. Kathleen Harriman of the Public Health Department, said, “Fewer than 3% of California schoolchildren use the exemption.”

The reason some opt out of the vaccines, by citing exemption due to ‘personal beliefs,’ is largely due to a myth that the vaccine is dangerous. No one has died of Measles in California this year, but the illness can be deadly in cases with complications, officials said. The public health department urged people who have not had Measles or received two doses of the Measles vaccine to get immunized before traveling outside of the Americas, where the disease is under control.

Since Measles is easily eliminated with the vaccines, it only makes sense to agree to them. When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives. The best way to prepare for the flu is to keep from catching it by having a vaccine. The Allied Universal Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services is a convenient and affordable solution to all of the training needs of your building(s). Choosing our service cuts property management training-related costs by 90% and saves you over 50% compared to conventional training! More importantly, IT SAVES LIVES.

CDC Reports Malaria Cases in U.S. Reach a 40-Year High

Tuesday, November 5th, 2013

To prevent malaria when traveling, take recommended medicines

Malaria is a life-threatening blood disease caused by a parasite, which causes infected people to experience fever, chills, and flu-like illness. And if infected folks allow their symptoms to go untreated, they may develop severe complications and could die. Worldwide, 219 million cases of malaria are estimated to occur each year, resulting in 660,000 deaths, mostly in children under five years of age.

The most recent malaria epidemic in the United States was in 2011, when there were 1,925 cases reported, according to data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The highest number of cases since 1971 (more than 40 years ago), this figure represents a 14% increase over the number of reported cases in 2010, when five people in the U.S. died from the disease or associated complications.

Since most of the malaria cases reported in the U.S. were acquired overseas, Americans should use the information as impetus to take recommended medications when traveling. This is especially important for people traveling to Africa, since more than two-thirds (69%) of the cases were imported in that region, with nearly two-thirds (63%) of the cases acquired in West Africa. India had the second highest number of cases, with seasonal peaks reported in January and August.

CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., said, “Malaria isn’t something many doctors see frequently in the United States thanks to successful malaria elimination efforts in the 1940s. The increase in malaria cases reminds us that Americans remain vulnerable and must be vigilant against diseases like malaria because our world is so interconnected by travel.”

Uncommon in temperate climates, malaria is most prevalent in tropical and subtropical countries. One of the ways world health officials are trying to reduce the incidence of malaria by distributing bed nets to help protect people from mosquito bites as they sleep. What’s more, scientists around the world are working to develop a vaccine to prevent malaria.

In most cases, Malaria is preventable and is caused by a parasite transmitted by the bite of an infected female mosquito. In 2010, there were an estimated 660,000 deaths and 219 million cases globally. The signs and symptoms of malaria illness are varied, but the overriding common denominator is fever.

Other common symptoms

  • Headache
  • Back pain
  • Chills
  • Increased sweating
  • Muscle pain
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Cough
  • Enlarged Spleen

Rare (serious) symptoms

  • Impairment of brain function
  • Impairment of spinal cord function
  • Seizures (fits)
  • Loss of consciousness

If left untreated, infections can rapidly spread, inducing coma, kidney failure, respiratory distress and death. Travelers to areas with malaria transmission can prevent the disease by using anti-malarial drugs, insect repellent, insecticide-treated bed nets and protective clothing. First- and second-generation immigrants from malaria-endemic countries returning to their “home” countries to visit friends and relatives tend to avoid using appropriate malaria prevention measures and thus are more likely to become infected with malaria than members of the general population.

To BE SAFE, consult a health-care provider for information, medications, and vaccines necessary prior to embarking on international travel. The CDC provides advice about malaria prevention recommendations If a traveler experiences symptoms of malaria (such as fever, headaches, and other flu-like symptoms—while abroad or on returning home—he or she should immediately seek diagnosis and treatment from a health-care provider.

When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives. The Allied Universal Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services is a convenient and affordable solution to all of the training needs of your building(s). Choosing our service cuts property management training related workloads by 90% and saves you over 50% compared to conventional training! More importantly, IT SAVES LIVES.